Archive for Mailbag

Got ten questions and nine answers for you this week. The best way to send us anything is through the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar. We get a ton of questions each week, so don’t take it personally if we don’t get to yours.

(Tom Lynn/Getty)

(Tom Lynn/Getty)

Vinny asks: Obviously he’d have to get his at-bats at DH at the expense of Carlos Beltran, but would you target Justin Morneau at the trade deadline? What would it take to get him?

Morneau, 33, is hitting .312/.345/.502 (119 wRC+) with 13 homers this year, his first with the Rockies. He’s actually hit better on the road (127 wRC+) than at Coors Field (109 wRC+). Morneau has big left-handed pull power and he’d fit wonderfully in Yankee Stadium, plus he’s always been a high contact hitter (10.6 K% this year). The Yankees need righty power more than lefty power at this point, but you take what you can get. The issue is Morneau’s contract — he’s signed for $6.75M next year and I’m not sure where they’d play him unless Beltran or Mark Teixeira went down with long-term injury. It took an okay big leaguer (Nate Schierholtz) and two prospects to get a year and half of Hunter Pence, which seems like a decent trade comp for Morneau. I’m just not sure where the Yankees would play him (unless Beltran has his elbow surgery).

Paul asks: Does St. Louis have any spare pieces the Yankees could deal for since they will need a catcher with Yadier Molina on the shelf for a while?

The Cardinals have a really deep farm system and lots to give up for a interim catcher, whether it be a stopgap like Frankie Cervelli or more of a long-term solution like John Ryan Murphy. Cervelli’s trade value is tiny as an injury prone out of options catcher. George Kottaras is roughly as valuable overall and he’s on waivers every other week (St. Louis actually claimed him right after the Molina injury). Murphy for someone like Randal Grichuk or Steven Piscotty would make a ton of sense for the Yankees since they could stick either player in right field immediately, but I’m guessing the Cardinals would balk, definitely on Piscotty. I get the sense the Cards will just ride this one out with what they have, maybe swing a nothing for a Cervelli type trade. Nothing more.

Jeb asks: Assuming the Yankees fold, would a trade of Jacoby Ellsbury to the Mariners be out of the question? If not, what would you guess the trade would look like?

I don’t think the Yankees would trade him, but, even if they were open to it, a deal like this would hinge entirely on Seattle’s financials and their willingness to take on that contract. This isn’t a salary dump in my opinion, Ellsbury is too good of a player to eat money to move him in a trade. The Yankees would be trading an impact two-way player, someone who is a standout center field defender and top notch leadoff man, so the return would be pretty big. I’d ask for Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, and a very good prospect as a third piece. I don’t even like Franklin all that much (Danny Espinosa without the defense!) and Walker has been battling shoulder issues all season, so that package might even be a little light. An Ellsbury trade doesn’t seem likely at all.

Danny asks: Do you know if Luis Severino has an innings limit this year? At the time of his AA promotion, he’s at 88.1 IP for the year, which is double what he pitched last year.

Severino. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Severino. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

I’m sure he does. He is only 20, after all. Severino threw 64.1 innings in the Dominican Summer League in 2012 and 44 official innings last year. That doesn’t include all the time he spent in Extended Spring Training, however. (He made his official season debut in late-June, so he was in ExST for a while.) I have absolutely no idea how many innings he could have thrown there, but he “real” innings total for last season might be closer to 80-90. If so, that would put him in line for 120 or so this year. So he’s got another month or so before being shut down, more or less.

Joe asks: With the lack of any impact talent from the draft and Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Rafael DePaula, Manny Banuelos and Tyler Austin regressing (although I still think Austin ends up a solid ML player) and the Eric Jagielo, Jose Campos, and Abi Avelino injuries, would you say the system is having another down year or do you like the progress of others enough to offset this? Is this a top 15 or 20 system?

Nah, I don’t think this is another down year. Williams and Austin have disappointed and Heathcott and Campos have serious injuries, sure, but the Jagielo (oblique) and Avelino (quad) injuries were just muscle strains. Nothing structural like Heathcott’s shoulder/knee. Aaron Judge and Severino have emerged as top 50-ish prospects while Jagielo, Ian Clarkin, and Gary Sanchez are having good years. Dante Bichette Jr. has rebounded well, Jake Cave has built on last year’s breakout, and guys like Jorge Mateo, Alex Palma, and Leonardo Molina all make their domestic debuts. Has it been a great year? No. But I don’t think this is a down year. If anything, it’s a normal year. Some good, some bad, lots in the middle. I think the system is in the 11-20 range among the 30 teams right now, probably closer to 13-17 if you want a tighter range.

Ryan asks: Would best case scenario for Peter O’Brien be Mark Trumbo? With offense in short supply around the league, there has to be a spot for him somewhere if he continues to hit for this kind of power.

Yeah, that sounds about right. It is worth noting that when Trumbo was O’Brien’s age, he was hitting .299/.366/.575 (133 wRC+) with 36 homers at Triple-A, with better strikeout (21.2%) and walk (9.2%) rates than O’Brien has now (24.5% and 4.6%, respectively) in Double-A. O’Brien’s right-handed power is very real — I seem to remember Keith Law rating it a 70 on the 20-80 scale recently and 70 power is no joke, but I can’t find the link — but I’m not going to lie to you, I am very skeptical about whether O’Brien will be able to tap into that power at the big league level given the holes in his swing and his general lack of plate discipline. Keep giving him chances, of course. Everyone should be thrilled if he turns into Trumbo.

Mark asks: At what point do we know if Shane Greene is the real deal? I know two starts is a ridiculously small sample, but he sure would be a nice find in a bleak (to this point) season. Thanks in advance.

The stuff is the legit, right? You can see that from watching him. PitchFX says Greene has averaged 93.9 mph with his sinker and 87.8 mph with his slider, which will play anywhere. The only question is whether he will continue to command it well enough to be successful. I don’t think we can put a number on this, X starts or Y innings before knowing if he’s the real deal. Greene is going to hit a rough patch at some point, it’s inevitable, and his ability to adjust will determine if he’s the real deal. I will say that I feel far better about his chances of remaining in the rotation long-term because of the quality of his stuff than I did Chase Whitley, with all due respect. Whitley did have a nice little run there and that shouldn’t be forgotten. Greene’s stuff is more built to last.

(Jason Miller/Getty)

(Jason Miller/Getty)

Tom asks: With Masahiro Tanaka out for a while, could they flip Brandon McCarthy prior to the deadline if they fall further back (another good start or two and I’d think they could end up with something even better than Vidal Nuno)? Is there a restriction on trading a player recently acquired? (time limit? player approval?)

Darrin asks: With the health of CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda in indefinite question and Hiroki Kuroda‘s retirement coming sooner rather than later, if McCarthy pitches well would you be in favor of the Yankees signing him to a short term deal (1 year+option, 2 years) this offseason? He would cost less than some of the high dollar FA guys, although I wouldn’t mind another elite pitcher as well. Yanks need to fill several rotation spots.

Going to lump these two together. The Yankees could flip McCarthy at the deadline, there are no restrictions. The Red Sox acquired Adam LaRoche just before the 2009 trade deadline and traded him away nine days later. I don’t think they would get anything more than Nuno in return, however. There are a ton of teams looking for another starter and no one bit on McCarthy when he was with the Diamondbacks. If anything, they’d get a player similar to Nuno in return, nothing better.

As for re-signing McCarthy, that depends on how he performs in the second half, obviously. His long history of shoulder trouble is scary, so that will have to be considered. If McCarthy pitches well down the stretch and he’s open to a short-term contract, then sure, bring him back. The Yankees are going to need pitching and he’s a solid option for the middle to back of the rotation. As we’ve seen this year, there is no such thing as too much pitching. There will always been room for him. McCarthy is on a two-year, $15.5M contract right now and I wouldn’t go any higher than that after the season. Maybe even offer less since he’s two years older and not as good as he was the last time he was a free agent. Two years and $12M instead?

Austin asks: I’m glad to see that Bernie Williams is going to be honored with a plaque in Monument Park next year, but I think he deserves a larger footnote to the ‘Core Four’ discussion. From 1995 – 2002 he slashed .321/.406/.531 and averaged 5.2 bWAR. How does Bernie stack up with center fielders of his era?

I hate the Core Four (the term, not the players) because it completely ignores Bernie for no other reason than because Core Five doesn’t rhyme. It is pretty disrespectful to the guy who was the best all-around hitter on the team during the dynasty years. Anyway, Bernie’s peak was basically 1994-2002, so a strong nine years. Let’s stretch it out and call his era 1990-2005. I’m not sure where else to cut it off. Here is the center field WAR leaderboard during that period (full list):

Rk Player WAR/pos OPS+ Age G
1 Ken Griffey 79.6 146 20-35 1998
2 Kenny Lofton 64.8 108 24-38 1838
3 Jim Edmonds 56.8 137 23-35 1587
4 Andruw Jones 52.3 115 19-28 1451
5 Bernie Williams 49.8 126 22-36 1945
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/17/2014.

No, WAR isn’t perfect, but it’s fine for an exercise like this. Plus it’s easy to search. Griffey being at the top should be no surprise. It’s definitely Griffey (big gap) Lofton (moderate gap) everyone else among center fielders of the era. There’s a decent-sized gap between Bernie and the number six player, Steve Finley (43.7 WAR and 107 OPS+). You could argue that, offensively, Williams was the third best center fielder behind Junior and Edmonds. His defense lagged behind the other guys and that costs him, but I don’t see any shame in being the fifth best overall center fielder in an era with Griffey, Lofton, Edmonds, and Andruw. All five of those guys are borderline Hall of Famers at worst.

Categories : Mailbag
Comments (86)

Got eight questions for you in this week’s mailbag. The best way to send us anything is through the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar. We get a lot of questions each week, so don’t take it personally if we don’t get to yours. Also, I should probably mention that I tend to write these things on Thursday afternoon, so send in your questions before then if you want them answered that week.

(Rob Carr/Getty)

(Rob Carr/Getty)

Adam asks: You will probably hear this a lot this week, but reports say the Nationals are concerned with Desmond balking at a contract extension and that could force them into making a deal for a young shortstop. Is it possible for the Yankees to somehow be a third wheel in a three-team trade this off season for Desmond?

I don’t know if it’s possible but the Yankees should definitely explore it. Desmond will become a free agent after next season and he recently rejected a seven-year extension worth upwards of $98M according to Ken Rosenthal. The 28-year-old is hitting .241/.293/.429 (101 wRC+) with 16 homers and nine steals this year after putting up a .286/.333/.480 (122 wRC+) batting line with 45 homers and 42 steals from 2012-13. He’s also graded out as a very good defensive shortstop. The Nationals are clearly a win now team, so I doubt they’d trade Desmond for prospects. A three-team deal in which the Yankees get Desmond, the Nationals get the young shortstop Rosenthal says they’re seeking, and the third team gets prospects from New York makes sense, especially if the Yankees can convince him to sign an extension. We are talking about a two-way shortstop right smack in the prime of his career, after all.

Many asked: Can the Yankees still trade next year’s international spending pool money? Can they ignore the rules and sign prospects for more than $300k in the next two signing periods? What are the attrition rates for international prospects? Can the Yankees add another minor league team to give these guys a place to play?

(We got a bunch of questions following the team’s international spending spree, so I shortened them all up and lumped them together.)

Yes, the Yankees can still trade their international bonus slots next year despite this year’s spending spree. They will receive a full spending pool next year, they just won’t be able to hand out a bonus more than $300k. They also won’t be able to say screw it and sign a player for more than that amount. The rules are the rules and I assume MLB would void the contract(s) in that case. The Yankees could always work out some under-the-table deals, of course. That happens all the time in Latin America.

The attrition rate question is a good one and I have never seen exact numbers or rates for kids that far down the ladder, but it’s obviously going to be fairly high. The attrition rate only gets higher and higher the further away you get from the MLB level — approximately 25% of high school draft prospects get to MLB in general, not necessarily make an impact — and we’re talking about 16-year-old kids here. The Yankees signed eight of Baseball America’s top 20 international prospects. If they hit on two, I’d be pretty happy. Hit on three and I’d be thrilled. If you want to $/WAR it, then remember that by time these kids have an impact in the big leagues, teams will be paying like $9-10M per win. The Yankees spent around $30M on international free agents last week.

As for adding another minor league team, it’s possible but not that easy. Minor league affiliations are a zero-sum game — there are only so many affiliates to go around in each league. The Yankees were able to add a second rookie Gulf Coast League affiliate last summer because the Mets shut down their GCL affiliate in a cost-cutting move (lol) and a spot opened up. Adding another affiliate is a very tough thing to do because you have to wait for another team to drop one of their affiliates, which rarely happens these days. Between the two Dominican Summer League teams and two GCL teams, the Yankees have four low level affiliates to sort these kids out. It’ll get tricky after that, but it’s a good problem to have.

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

Charlie asks: With all the chatter about Masahiro Tanaka‘s injury being the result of the transition to a five-day rotation, I’m wondering if Dice-K or Yu Darvish had an injury similar to Tanaka’s in their first MLB season?

Darvish has not had any arm problems during his three years in the show. He missed a start with a blister last season and another start with a cut on his thumb this year, but that’s nothing. Those weren’t structural arm injuries. (Darvish has had some back and neck problems over the last year.) Daisuke Matsuzaka missed a month in 2008 (his second MLB season) with a shoulder strain and four months with shoulder issues in 2009. He eventually blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery in 2011, his fifth season with the Red Sox. Neither had arm problems in their first MLB season like Tanaka, however.

Gregg asks: Do the Yankees have the option to dip below the luxury tax threshold in the 2015 season? If so, what moves would they need to make to do potentially do so?

The luxury tax threshold for next season is again $189M, and, according to Cot’s, the Yankees currently have approximately $166.8M on the books for the luxury tax next year. That doesn’t include arbitration raises or replacing the guys who could leave as free agents. Unless Alex Rodriguez gets suspended again or the Yankees find a way to unload the Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and/or Carlos Beltran contracts, it’ll be close to impossible to get under the $189M threshold next year. As soon as they went on that spending spree over the winter, it all but eliminated any chance of getting under the luxury tax threshold before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2016 season.

Ghost of Horace Clarke asks: Many of all time Yankee records are mentioned for Derek Jeter. What about double plays, on both sides of the ball?

Jeter is, unsurprisingly, the franchise’s all-time leader in ground ball double plays at 281. Bernie Williams is a distance second with 223. The Cap’n is 15th on the all-time GIDP list, right behind Joe Torre (284) and Albert Pujols (283). Defensively, Jeter ranks first in Yankees history and sixth all-time among shortstops in double plays turned at 1,395. Omar Vizquel (1,734), Ozzie Smith (1,590), Cal Ripken Jr. (1,565), Luis Aparicio (1,553), and Luke Appling (1,424) are the only guys ahead of him.

Luke asks: I was reading Chad Jennings’ blog and he’d mentioned that Jeter was elected to the All-Star Game not only by fans, but by players as well (344 votes to Alexei Ramirez’s 313). I haven’t seen them publicized – are these player vote totals available somewhere for the public? I can’t stand fan voting – every year fans ruin it, this year most notably Orioles and Brewers fans – and I’m wondering simply because I’m interested to see how closely the player votes match the fan votes.

I have not seen the full player votes released anywhere. Jennings mentioned Jeter led at shortstop and Jeff Passan says Tanaka received the most player votes among AL starting pitchers, but that’s all I can find. Dellin Betances was voted in by the players as well, and since there were only four relievers on the initial roster, we know he received no fewer the fourth most player votes among AL relievers. Glen Perkins, Greg Holland, and Sean Doolittle were the other bullpeners on the initial AL roster. Pretty cool that Tanaka and Betances were voted into the game by their peers, no?

Mickey asks: Do you think Ichiro hits a homerun this year? I keep waiting for him to take advantage of the short porch but he seems more BA focused than trying to drive the ball.  

Yeah, I think he’ll hit one out eventually. Just about everyone hits a cheapie over the short porch at some point during the season and I don’t think Ichiro will be any different. If you’re looking for a good laugh, here is Ichiro’s spray chart for the season, courtesy of Texas Leaguers (doesn’t include last night’s game):

Ichiro Suzuki spray chart

There is no reason for outfielders to play anything but shallow against Ichiro.

Danny asks: In hypothetical world because Jeter; Teams don’t shift Brian McCann when runners are on base, wouldn’t Joe Girardi want to bat him second behind a guy like Brett Gardner so he won’t have some singles taken away?

That does make sense. The best possible spot for him seems like it would be behind both Gardner and Ellsbury, the team’s two best on-base threats. The odds would be pretty high that at least one of those two would be on base for McCann, opening up the field a little bit more. Remember, opposing teams will have to guard against the stolen base, so they can’t let the infielders wander too far away from second. McCann has made an effort to go the other way more often this year — he already has 18 opposite field hits in 2014, one fewer than last year and more than both 2011 (14) and 2012 (15) — but it’s clear he is at his best when he pulls the ball.

Categories : Mailbag
Comments (39)

Only six questions this week, but some of the answers are kinda long. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything through the week.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Several people asked: What happens with Brian Cashman when his contract expires after the season?

A bunch of people sent in some variation of this question. Some nice (is it time for a change?), some not so nice (fire that idiot!). Needless to say, when you commit over $500M to free agents in an offseason only to get worse and potentially to miss the postseason for the second straight year, it’s only natural to wonder if a change in leadership is needed.

I’ve been a Cashman supporter over the years but I do think it’s time for the Yankees to make a change. He’s been the GM for 16 years now. That’s an eternity in GM years. The Yankees are still trying to win by almost exclusively signing free agents and that’s not just going to work in the game these days. The best players are not hitting the open market until their post-prime years. Baseball has changed but the Yankees have not. They’re still trying to build a team the same way they did 10-15 years ago and it’s not working.

I feel the Yankees have reached the point where bringing in a new GM with a different voice would really benefit the club. I think the same applies to managers and coaches too — eventually they get stale and it’s time for a new voice to shake things up. That’s human nature. It happens. The club’s way of doing business needs an overhaul, not one or two minor tweaks. I mean, given their payroll, other teams rely on the Yankees to make mistakes to contend, and there have been a lot of mistakes in recent years.

Who should replace Cashman? That’s a hard part. Assistant GM Billy Eppler is the obvious in-house candidate but he is being given serious consideration for the Padres GM job (he interviewed for the position yesterday, the team announced). He might not be a long-term option. Hiring someone from outside the organization is tricky because the New York market is so unique. Money doesn’t guarantee success and the expectations are through the roof. Experience in this kind of market is not required but it would preferred.

If Eppler gets the Padres job, I have no idea who the Yankees could replace Cashman with. Ex-Cubs GM Jim Hendry is in the front office as an advisor but no thanks. Advisor and ex-GM Gene Michael has made it pretty clear he’s out of the GM game at age 76. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer? Eh, maybe. Hiring Billy Beane or Andrew Friedman away from their teams is totally unrealistic. There figures to be a few GM openings this winter (Phillies? Diamondbacks?), so the Yankees would have competition for the top candidates.

I do think it’s time for the Yankees to bring in a new GM — I’ve been saying they could move Cashman to a high-level advisor role when the time comes for years now, similar to Kenny Williams and Mark Shapiro, and I still think that. He’s worth keeping around, especially if they bring in a GM from outside the organization — because there needs to be some change. The team-building strategies are too outdated to continue. Going from Point A (Cashman) to Point B (new GM) will be very difficult and my biggest fear is Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine hiring some figurehead GM they can walk all over.

(Al Bello/Getty)

(Al Bello/Getty)

Joe asks: Why don’t the Yankees switch Gardner and Ellsbury in the lineup? Why bat Ellsbury third when Gardner has shown more power this year?

I agree completely. (I said this earlier this week.) Jacoby Ellsbury‘s batting third because he’s the big name and he’s the guy with the huge contract, but he is totally miscast in that lineup spot in my opinion. Brett Gardner would be as well, don’t get me wrong, but when you look at their skills, I think Ellsbury makes more sense in the leadoff spot and Gardner third. To wit:

  • Their batting averages (.288 vs. .284) and on-base percentages (.358 vs. .352) are essentially identical. It’s not like one guy has a big 25 or 40-point advantage or something.
  • Ellsbury is quicker to steal than Gardner. I don’t have any stats to back that up (I don’t even know if that stuff is available) but I think we can all agree that’s the case.
  • Gardner has shown more usable power this year (.144 ISO vs .106 ISO, 8 HR vs. 4 HR) and does a better job of taking advantage of the short porch. Every Ellsbury hit looks exactly the same — line drive to center or left-center. Hard to hit for power and clear the bases like that.

Since they get on base at almost the exact same rate, the Yankees would be better off using Gardner’s slight edge in power — remember, he has more power than Ellsbury but is still no better than an average power hitter overall — a little lower in the lineup, with potentially more men on base. It wouldn’t make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, but when you’re struggling to score runs like the Yankees have been, I see very little downside to making the swap.

Daniel asks: Why is it that when you’re showing the rankings of different international prospects and you give MLB.com and BA’s, the rankings are so vastly different? It doesn’t seem like it’s quite as stark a difference with US prospects. Why the big gaps, and who do you trust more anyway?

I listed each player’s ranking in our massive International Free Agency Open Thread the other day — the unofficial final tally was 22 players and $26.8M in bonuses plus penalties, by the way, and there are still some more signings to come — and in some cases the rankings are very different. Venezuelan OF Jonathan Amundaray was ranked seventh by MLB.com and 22nd by Baseball America, for example. Dominican OF Antonio Arias was ninth by MLB.com and 28th by Baseball America. A two or three spot difference is nothing, but 15-20?

I think this stems from the general lack of reliable information about international prospects. MLB.com and Baseball America do a really awesome job of digging up info on these kids, but it’s still tough to find a consensus. Remember, these are 16-year-old kids who have a lot of development left. They are even more unpredictable than high schoolers, so the opinions very wildly. It comes down to the difference in sources, I guess. I trust Baseball America (Ben Balder) the most because he’s been on the international free agent beat for a while now and always seems to have the most information and the best projections (about who is signing where, etc.). I think it’s important to consider all possible sources through. The more info, the better.

Joe asks: Hiroki Kuroda gets terrible run support, it seems.  What Yankees starter has gotten the worst?

Kuroda has never gotten run support in the big leagues. The Dodgers never scored for him back in the day and even in 2012, when the Yankees had a good offense, they still never scored for him. Here is the where the team’s starters rank among the 157 starting pitchers who have thrown at least 40 innings this season (only Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka have qualified for the batting title):

Juan Nicasio of the Rockies has received the most run support this year (6.79 runs per game) by almost a full run (Jesse Chavez and Matt Shoemaker are tied for second at 5.88). Andrew Cashner has received the least run support at 2.17 runs per game. Yikes. How in the world can someone pitch like that, knowing that if they give up two runs, they’ll probably lose? The Padres, man.

Maxwell. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Maxwell. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Dustin asks: Chris Capuano is now a free agent. Should the Yanks give him a minor league deal? Same for Jerome Williams and Justin Maxwell if they clear waivers. And would Nolan Reimold even be worth claiming on waivers and giving up something of minor value?

I’d take all four of those guys a minor league contract at this point, especially Maxwell, who might be a better option for the right-handed half of the right field platoon than Alfonso Soriano. He stunk this year (11 wRC+ in limited time), but Maxwell has hit .230/.344/.407 (105 wRC+) against lefties in his career. It’s not like the Triple-A Scranton outfield is full either. Reimold is hurt all the time (56 games from 2012-14) but has kinda shown he can hit southpaws (career 98 wRC+). Capuano has a knack for underperforming his peripherals and I consider both him and Williams as replacement level arms at this point of their careers. The Red Sox were nice enough to audition Capuano in the AL East for the Yankees. Of these four guys, Maxwell seems most likely to be useful.

TomH asks: RAB and others have recently noted a kind of creeping mediocrity among MLB teams, probably resulting from the Bud Selig era leveling moves. How do you think this pretty obvious general mediocrity will affect baseball’s popularity?

It’s probably a net win for the game. More teams are in the race and that means more fans are excited and paying attention (and going to games and buying merchandise). I joke all the time that the Yankees are unwatchable these days, but I watch a ton of non-Yankees baseball too, and I think the level of play around the league is very low right now. Most of MLB is Yankees-esque unwatchable. Is that because of Selig’s competitive balance? I’m sure that’s part of it. I think it’s good for the game overall to have more teams in the race and more fans interested, but I do think baseball is at its absolute best when there are two or three superpowers fans can hate. Maybe I’m just biased as a Yankees fan.

Comments (98)

Seven questions in this week’s mailbag. If you want to send us something, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar. We get a lot of questions each week, so don’t take it personally if yours is not answered.

(Al Bello/Getty)

(Al Bello/Getty)

Paul asks: What would happen if Derek Jeter decided he wasn’t retiring?

I think we all know what would happen. The Yankees would re-sign him to a contract similar to this year’s (one-year, $12M plus incentives) and he’d play shortstop everyday next season. I know it, you know it, Jeter knows it, the Yankees know it, everyone knows it. He has the organization wrapped around his finger.

What should happen? The Yankees should walk away if Jeter un-retires because their goal should be to put the best possible team on the field. Not the most marketable team, the team with the best chance to win. It’s hard to see how the Cap’n at shortstop accomplishes that at this point of his career. The upcoming free agent shortstop crop (Hanley Ramirez, Jed Lowrie, J.J. Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera) is deep and there are better options. It’ll never happen though. Jeter’s going to retire after the season and this is all hypothetical.

Masamyhiro asks: I know it’s ridiculous but what’s the real limitation to NYY signing even more of the international free agents this year? Is it purely financial, do certain players prefer other teams, or do the Yanks simply believe that some of them won’t translate well to MLB? Following up on that, is there heavy recruiting in international free agency a la Masahiro Tanaka this past offseason, or do the kids simply follow the money?

It’s a combination of everything, really. Every team views these players differently and not all think they’re worth the money. The Latin American market is very secretive — teams find players when they are like, 13-14 years old, hide them at their academies and keep them out of sight from the other scouts. It happens all the time. You can’t spend money on talent you don’t get a chance to properly evaluate it. I suppose that’s similar to a Tanaka-esque recruiting pitch — many times these players will agree to sign years in advance, occasionally with under-the-table payouts up front. Remember, a lot of these kids live in poverty, and signing to play baseball is the best way to help their families. They jump on whatever money they can get.

Preston asks: What do you think of Dexter Fowler as a trade target? He would slot nicely into the 2 hole between Gardner and Ellsbury and would be signed through 2016.

That would be three no-to-low power outfielders for a team already short on power. I’m not sure it fits. Fowler is a switch-hitter who consistently gets on base (.377 OBP this year and .380 OBP from 2012-14) and is a 15-20 steal, 10-15 homer guy at his best. The defensive stats hate him in center and he has one inning in right field in his career. Giving up some prospects to get him for right seems like a poor fit for both the offense and defense to me. The on-base ability to awesome, but the current roster is begging for another power hitter, not another speedy leadoff type.

CS Yankee asks: Good to see that Ty is finally pitching again. How did Ian Clarkin and Ty Hensley compare when they were drafted? Who had the higher scouting grades, BP rankings, and how did you (Mike) rate them?

In my opinion, Clarkin was the better prospect at the time of their respective drafts. Hensley threw harder and they had similar quality breaking balls, but Clarkin’s changeup was much more advanced. He’s also left-handed, which is a plus. Again, that’s just my opinion. Here is how they were ranked by the various scouting publications in their draft years:

Keep in mind that they’re being ranked in different draft classes. The 2013 draft was generally considered to be stronger than the 2012 class, so Clarkin ranking higher than Hensley despite the tougher overall draft class pretty much confirms he was considered the better prospect at the time. That’s fine though, that doesn’t mean Hensley wasn’t a good prospect. He’s obviously been derailed by injuries, but taking him 30th overall was perfectly reasonable.

Black. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Black. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Sandeep asks: If Bud Black is let go from the Padres, should the Yankees look into finding a role for him? He seems to be one of the smarter baseball managers out there and I believe he’s often received praise on this site. What would his role be?

I like Black as a manager because he always seems to make good strategic moves — maximizing the platoon advantage, putting his players in good positions to succeed, etc. — whenever I watch the Padres. I have no idea what he’s like managing people in the clubhouse, though I doubt he would have remained on the job for 7+ years if players didn’t like him.

The Padres are terrible and they just fired GM Josh Byrnes, and there are rumblings even more moves will be made as the new ownership group cleans house and brings in their own people. Black is a pitching guy who played 15 years in the big leagues and was the Angels pitching coach under Mike Scioscia from 2000-06. Unless the Yankees were to fire Larry Rothschild (I don’t see that happening at all), I’m not sure where he’d fit in. Minor league pitching guru? Would he be open to doing that after being on a big league coaching staff for a decade and a half? I like Black based on what I’ve seen but I’m not sure there’s a role for him with the Yankees.

Pounder asks: With defensive shifts becoming more and more engrained, how will this affect the game in the long run? Will the “science” of hitting start to be taught among the lower levels of the sport, including Little League, high school and college? Could these shifts de-emphasize the power game as well, making Punch and Judy hitters more prevalent?

I’m pretty sure the art of hitting to all fields is taught at every level already, especially in the minors and in college. It’s up to the players to do it though, the coaching staff can only do so much. Some players refuse or are flat out unable to adjust — it drives me nuts whenever Michael Kay talks about a player refusing to go against the shift and act likes it’s a piece of cake. If it were take easy to hit the baseball exactly where you want, everyone would hit about .500 — or are simply at their best when they pull the ball. Brian McCann already has eleven opposite field hits this season after getting between 10-15 every year from 2009-13. He’s hitting against the shift more often, but is it doing him any good? At some point don’t you have to consider letting him go back to being himself?

Anyway, eventually hitters will adjust to the shift just like they adjusted to curveballs and sliders way back in the day. There will still be players who can’t beat the shift just like there are players who struggle against breaking balls. The game evolves and those players either adapt or get run out of the league. If anything this should make power hitters more valuable. If baseball is going to devolve into a league of singles hitters, the guys who can put runs on the board with one swing will be even more important. That’s just my opinion as a fan of the long ball. Trying to consistently score runs with extended rallies in an age of infield shifts and advanced scouting reports and specialized relievers strikes me as a fool’s errand.

Brian asks: Have we seen anything from the 6th, 7th and/or the 8th starters to indicate that the Yankees may have a long term answer amongst them?

Vidal Nuno (12), David Phelps (ten), and Chase Whitley (eight) have only combined to make 30 starts so far, so we haven’t seen a ton of them yet. (We have seen plenty of Phelps the last two years, obviously.) At this point, I think it’s fair to say Phelps has the best chance of being a starter long-term while Nuno has the smallest chance. He is left-handed though, a niche in the bullpen always awaits. I’m not quite sure what to think of Whitley yet, but I feel better about his ability to pitch in the big leagues in some capacity than I did three months ago. The one thing I know for certain is that I hope the Yankees never need all three of these guys in the rotation at the same time again in the future.

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Got eight questions for you this week — one long one and seven short-ish ones. If you want to send us questions or comments or anything else throughout the week, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar. We get a ton of questions each week, so don’t take it personally if we don’t answer yours.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Jeb asks: It’ll never happen, but what do you think Masahiro Tanaka would net in a trade?

Oh man. Ace-caliber pitchers almost never get traded, especially not 25-year-old ace-caliber pitchers signed for another three and a half years (I think you have to assume Tanaka will use the opt-out in his contract). Cliff Lee was 30 and he had a year and a half left on his deal when he went from the Indians to the Phillies. Roy Halladay was 32 with a year left on his deal when he went from the Blue Jays to the Phillies. Those are the most recent examples of ace trades.

You have to go back a few years, but I think there are three comparable trades we can reference when talking about a potential Tanaka trade. Allow me to reiterate this is all hypothetical and for fun. The Yankees aren’t trading Tanaka. Even if they did decide to sell, he’s someone they could keep and rebuild around. Here are those three comparable deals:

  • Josh Beckett (Marlins to Red Sox): Beckett was 25 at the time of the trade and had three years of arbitration remaining. He landed the Fish two high-end, MLB ready prospects in Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez, plus two throw-ins. The Red Sox had to take Mike Lowell (77 OPS+ in 2014) and the $18M left on his contract to make it happen.
  • Dan Haren (Athletics to Diamondbacks): Haren was 27 at the time of the trade and had two years plus an option left on his contract. He was dealt for six young players, most notably Brett Anderson, Carlos Gonzalez, and Chris Carter. Anderson and Carter were both very good prospects in High-A. CarGo was in Triple-A.
  • Gio Gonzalez (Athletics to Nationals): Like Beckett, Gio was 25 at the time of the trade. Unlike Beckett, he was four years away from free agency. Washington gave up two good but not great MLB ready arms (Brad Peacock and Tom Milone), a top Single-A pitching prospect (A.J. Cole), and a good Triple-A catching prospect (Derek Norris) to get the lefty.

Based on these deals, any package for Tanaka would have to start with two very good prospects, including one who could step right onto the MLB roster in an everyday capacity like Hanley, CarGo, or Norris. There would also have to be two or three other lesser pieces involved, MLB ready or otherwise. Tanaka is far more expensive than those three at the time of their trades, which is an issue. Few teams can actually afford his contract. Let’s assume the Yankees will eat some money just to make life easy.

Okay, so let’s rosterbate. The Cubs had interest in signing Tanaka and could offer a top position player prospect like Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, or Albert Almora as package headliner. (I assume Kris Bryant is off limits.). The Dodgers are always looking to add and Joc Pederson is a natural fit as a center piece. The Tigers as protection if Scherzer leaves? Unless they offer Nick Castellanos, I’m not sure there’s a fit. The Cardinals have a bunch of outfielders to offer, including Stephen Piscotty if they don’t want to move Oscar Taveras. A trade with the Red Sox would never happen but Mookie Betts would definitely make sense.

Keep in mind I mentioned those prospects as the start of a trade package. The Yankees would need to get one of those guys plus another very good piece (Zach Lee or Julio Urias from the Dodgers? Arismendy Alcantara from the Cubs?) and a few secondary pieces. If they aren’t going to get at least one potential star player plus several other young high-upside players close to the show, it’s not worth it. A Hanley/Anibal package would be the best case scenario given what we know about how things worked out for the Marlins.

Paul asks: Assuming #HIROK retires or otherwise leaves the Yankees after this year, do you think #TANAK will take number 18?

I think so. It seems likely Hiroki Kuroda will be gone after the season, either due to retirement or simply letting him walk, right? I guess he could come back at a discounted salary if he finishes strong. Anyway, the No. 18 is a big deal in Japan, it’s the ace number. Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kuroda both wear it (Yu Darvish wears No. 11) and Tanaka wore it in Japan. It’s a very symbolic thing to them and I think Tanaka will jump at the chance to wear that number again.

(Brian Kersey/Getty)

(Brian Kersey/Getty)

Mike asks: For the last two months Justin Verlander has not been vintage Verlander. Is this a case of just plain old struggling or are the innings catching up to him?

Verlander has been terrible — 7.83 ERA and 5.56 FIP in his last seven starts and 43.2 innings — but he isn’t the only former ace to fall off a cliff recently. Obviously the Yankees have CC Sabathia going through the same thing, and the Giants have seen both Tim Lincecum and now Matt Cain slip in recent years. It happened to Haren not too long ago as well. These guys aren’t breaking down like Josh Johnson, they just stink all of a sudden. It’s kinda scary, no? I don’t know what’s wrong with Verlander and neither do the Tigers fans who have been trying to figure it out like we’ve been trying to figure out what’s wrong with Sabathia. I recommend this Grant Brisbee post for coping with Ace Sucking Syndrome (ASS).

A different Mike asks: Jim Bowden claims that the Rays may be willing to trade Price within the division. He thinks the trade could get done if the Yankees “overpay” by including Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, and Peter O’Brien in the package. Do you a) think the Rays would accept this offer and b) think this is an overpay?

No, I don’t think the Rays would accept that offer and no, I don’t think it’s an overpay. That’d be a steal for the Yankees. We’re talking about getting a legitimate, AL East proven left-handed ace in exchange for a Single-A pitching prospect, a power prospect without a position, and a catching prospect who hasn’t hit much in Double-A and is being benched for disciplinary reasons. You have to give up something to get something, and Sanchez and O’Brien are among the team’s most expendable prospects. Dealing Severino would sting, but again, he’s in A-ball. You deal him for a guy like Price every day of the week.

Austin asks: Are Derek Jeter and Tanaka the only Yankees All-Stars? I think Brett Gardner and Dellin Betances should be added to the team, but will Farrell add them?

At this point I think Jeter and Tanaka will be the only Yankees elected to the All-Star Game. Jeter is still leading the fan voting at shortstop and Tanaka has been awesome. He’s a candidate to start the game. Keep in mind that Brian McCann is second in the catcher voting behind Matt Wieters, who is done for the season following elbow surgery. McCann might start at catcher by default. I think Betances deserves to go because he’s been one of the five best relievers in baseball this season, but deserving to go and actually going are two different things. Gardner’s been awesome (so have Jacoby Ellsbury for that matter) but I can’t see him going to the All-Star Game. There are too many great/more popular outfielders in the AL.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

Ghost of Horace Clarke asks: Better manager, Joe Girardi or Joe Torre?

On the field, Girardi is clearly the better manager. He’s better with the bullpen and more open-minded to platoons and shifts and stuff like that. Torre was very old school and straight forward. We have no way of knowing who is better in the clubhouse, but Torre was a master at dealing with the media and that counts for something. It’s easy to drum up controversy in New York and that very rarely happened under his watch. Girardi has improved in that department but he’s no Torre. There’s no debate who the better on-field tactician is, however.

Ron asks: OK. Am I the only one who notices that whenever McCann has an at-bat, he squints so much that you can barely see his eyes. Does this not beg to ask if he has a vision problem?????

McCann’s facial expresses are pretty funny. They’re definitely one of my favorite sidebars of the season. Anyway, McCann has actually had vision problems in the past. He had LASIK surgery in 2007 but was dealing with blurred vision in 2009, so he wore custom-made prescription glasses for the remainder of the season. McCann has another LASIK procedure the following winter and has had no trouble since. I think the squinting and funny faces are just quirky mannerisms, but I suppose he could be having eye problems again. I think he would speak up if that were the case given his history though.

Yet another Mike asks: Taylor Dugas — How come nobody talks about this kid? He’s 24 and is stuck in Trenton. He has decent numbers especially his .422 OBP.

Dugas was just promoted to Triple-A Scranton yesterday, so he isn’t stuck in Double-A any longer. The Yankees selected him in the eighth round of the 2012 draft out of Alabama and he’s hit .293/.422/.368 (~138 wRC+) with more walks (138) than strikeouts (103) in 226 minor league games, including .294/.403/.424 (134 wRC+) in 54 games with Trenton.

Dugas is a left-handed hitter with no power and only okay defense, so his usefulness is limited. Keith Law (subs. req’d) said “he squares up all kinds of pitching and I would be very surprised if he didn’t hit his way to some kind of major league role, maybe even as the heavy side of a platoon” following the draft that year, though Baseball America (subs. req’d) basically said Dugas is Sam Fuld without the defense. Dugas obviously can control the strike zone, his performance has been great, and he is on the right side of the platoon. He doesn’t have the sexiest tools but he is putting himself in position to have some kind of big league role for the Yankees, maybe even as Ichiro Suzuki‘s replacement next year.

Categories : Mailbag
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Got nine questions and seven answers for you this week. If you want to send us anything, mailbag questions or links or comments or whatever, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

(Drew Hallowell/Getty)

(Drew Hallowell/Getty)

Scott asks: I’m sure this has been asked a million times but how about Cole Hamels? It is a pretty big contract but money isn’t an issue. Cliff Lee is hurt and the Phillies are pretty bad. He has had some injury issues but what would it take?

Hamels started the year on the disabled list with a shoulder issue, but he has a 3.07 ERA (2.80 FIP) in ten starts and 67.1 innings since being activated, so he’s been as good as ever. There is still $103M or so left on his contract through 2018, so he could be a cheaper alternative to upcoming free agents like Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. The only problem is that you’d have to trade players to get him. The Phillies aren’t exactly hurting for cash either. If they trade Hamels, it won’t be for salary relief only. The shoulder issue is a little scary, especially because he has had some other shoulder problems in the past, but I do think Hamels is worth keeping in the back of your mind as a Scherzer and Lester alternative over the winter. I don’t think the Phillies are going to go into sell mode at the deadline no matter how bad things get.

Erick asks: We all know Ichiro won Rookie of the Year and MVP. Has anyone ever won Rookie of the Year and Cy Young? I know it’s dreaming since pitchers nowadays rarely get mentioned as MVPs, but MVP, CY and ROY for Tanaka? How crazy would that be?

Fernando Valenzuela is the only player in history to win the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards in the same season. He did it back in 1981. Jose Fernandez came kinda close last year, when he won the Rookie of the Year and finished third in the Cy Young voting behind Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright. Tanaka obviously has a very good chance to win both awards this season with the obvious caveat that he still has about 20 starts to go. Sweeping the Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP awards would be completely ridiculous. Ridiculously awesome.

Dan asks: At this point, it’s honestly worth wondering if the Yankees should be buyers or sellers. Is one bat really enough to put this team over the top? I don’t think so. If they became sellers, who (if anyone) would they be able to move? Hiroki Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki, and Brett Gardner is pretty much it, right?

To be fair to Dan, this question came in a few days ago, before the sweep of the Mariners. Things obviously felt quite different then.

Anyway, they aren’t going to sell. They’re the Yankees. They’re close enough to both the division lead (3.5 games back) and a wildcard spot (tied for the second spot) that they’ll go for it and try to add pieces at the trade deadline, especially after spending all that money over the winter. One bat probably isn’t enough to put them over the top, but a bat and a starter and improved performance from Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann might be.

In the highly unlikely event they do sell, I think Kuroda, Gardner, and David Robertson would be their most attractive trade chips. Kuroda has a no-trade clause but would probably waive it to go back to Los Angeles, either the Dodgers or Angels. His family still lives out there. Gardner and especially Robertson would make sense for several teams. Ichiro could draw some interest but the return wouldn’t be anything great. That’s really it. Not much available for this team to realistically sell before the deadline.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Joey asks: Assuming the NYY either acquire a starter or Michael Pineda comes back and can contribute, who goes first between Chase Whitley, Vidal Nuno, and David Phelps? Whitely gives the least distance but seems to be the best of the bunch, Phelps seems to be best in a reliever role. Thoughts?

Dustin asks: What is with Joe Girardi always pulling Whitely out of the game early? Has he never thrown 100 in a game before?

Going to lump these two together. First, no, Whitley has never thrown 100 pitches in a game before. His career high is 91 pitches in the game against the Cardinals a few weeks ago. Remember, he was a reliever up until the end of last year. He’s thrown more than 60 pitches in an outing only 13 times in his entire five-year career. Whitely never got the chance to learn how to turn a lineup over a third time in the minors and Girardi has been careful with him in those situations at the MLB level, and rightfully so. I would have liked to have seen him get a chance to finish off that eighth inning last night, but otherwise I don’t think there’s anything wrong with how he’s handled the righty.

At this point in time, I think Nuno would go back to the bullpen whenever Pineda or CC Sabathia comes off the disabled list. Phelps has had three really rough outings in a row but I think the Yankees are more comfortable with him in the rotation. Remember, the only reason Nuno was the first guy to move into the rotation was timing — he made a spot start following a doubleheader and happened to line up perfectly to start again when Ivan Nova blew out his elbow. Phelps has more experience as a starter at the MLB level and his stuff is better. Nuno feels like the guy to go back to the bullpen in my opinion, but that could change by time Pineda or Sabathia actually get healthy

nycsportzfan asks: Hey Mike, I was wondering if you thought the Yanks could make one big trade at the deadline to find a hitter and pitcher? Examples are Aaron Hill and Wade Miley from D’Backs, Andrew Cashner and Everth Cabrera from Padres, and Charlie Morton and Neil Walker from Pirates? Could Yanks have enough to make a similar deal to those I mentioned happen? Kill two birds with one stone type thing.

I think the most realistic scenario for a trade like that would be Hill and Brandon McCarthy from Arizona. I haven’t heard anything about Miley being available, which makes sense since he is under team control for another few years and McCarthy will become a free agent after the season. I can’t see the Padres trading Cashner and I don’t think the Pirates would move Morton (just signed an extension) or Walker (local Pittsburgh guy). Ben Zobrist and David Price would be the best case scenario, but that ain’t happening. Maybe Alex Rios and Colby Lewis? Luis Valbuena and Jason Hammel would actually be a real nice fit. Valbuena can play second and third and is hitting .288/.394/.456 (136 wRC+).

Sandro asks: When the Yankees drafted Aaron Judge last year, he was touted as a potential center fielder with huge power. At 6’7″ 230, he has a similar body type to another slugger, Giancarlo Stanton. Is this comparison too hopeful?

Yes. Stanton was a third year big leaguer when he was Judge’s age. Also, Judge has big power, but it’s not Stanton power. Stanton has true 80 power (on the 20-80 scale). Just let Judge be himself. It’s unfair to compare him to Stanton. They have very little in common aside from being physically huge outfielders.

Harrison. (StudentSports.com)

Harrison. (StudentSports.com)

Jack asks: Oppenheimer was quoted that with each of the first two picks they were within “one or two picks” of picking a position player, instead of the two pitchers they actually took. Looking at rounds 2 and 3 the only position players picked 1 or 2 picks before the Yankee picks were Matt Railey (Rd3) and Aramis Garcia (Rd2). What do you think of those 2 instead of the two the Yankees picked?

Danny asks: Any of their 2014 draftees enter Yankees top 20 prospects?

Going to lump these two together. Here’s the full quote from scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, in case you missed it (via Chad Jennings):

The Yankees first five picks were pitchers, but that wasn’t deliberate
“It really was just coincidence because we were real close, within a pick or two, of a position player both with the first pick and the second pick. So it could have gone either way real quick,” Oppenheimer said.

Missouri HS OF Monte Harrison and Georgia HS OF Michael Gettys were selected 50th and 51st overall, respectively, a few picks before the Yankees took Mississippi State LHP Jacob Lindgren with the 55th selection. (Garcia was 52nd.) Oregon State OF Dylan Davis and Railey were taken 87th and 89th overall, again respectively, right before the Yankees grabbed Connecticut HS RHP Austin DeCarr with the 91st pick.

I think Oppenheimer was referring to Harrison and Gettys specifically because they were considered first round talents who slid for whatever reason. The Yankees seem to love their toolsy and athletic high school position player prospects and those two definitely fit the bill. I would have preferred either over Lindgren because they offer way, way more upside than the typical 55th selection. Alas, it was not meant to be. As for the third round, I don’t really have a preference for Davis or Railey over DeCarr. Davis did not have a good spring by top college player standards at all (.283/.338/.430). Without spending too much time thinking about it, give me DeCarr over the other two.

The signing deadline is Friday, July 18th, so I’m going to post my annual post-draft top 30 prospects list the following week (here’s the pre-draft list). I haven’t put too much through into it yet, but Lindgren is a safe bet to crack the top 20. DeCarr might. He is a lock for the top 30 though. Central Michigan RHP Jordan Foley will get consideration for the top 30, ditto Florida HS RHP Garrett Cave and Connecticut HS 3B Will Toffey if they sign. That’s about it. With no first round pick and a draft class geared more towards probability than upside, not many guys will jump into my top 30. The international signing period will be a different story.

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Got six questions for you this week. Feels like a light mailbag. Anyway, remember to send us anything through the Submit A Tip box in a sidebar.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)

(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Noel asks: Looking at the way this team is constructed and the offensive woes … A-Rod? Is he welcomed back with open arms next year? None of the kids will be ready, Derek Jeter will be gone, do they go another year with him and hope he can help with some thump?

They might welcome Alex Rodriguez back, but it sure won’t be with open arms. It’ll be reluctantly, if anything. He’ll be back only because he’s still under contract too, not because the Yankees think he can help the team. They’ve have made it pretty clear they want nothing to do with A-Rod and would like it if he just went away forever. Can you blame them at this point?

I’ve said I do not expect Alex to ever play in MLB again and I’m going to stick to it. Might as well at this point. He’ll turn 39 years old next month, and once the suspension is over, he will have played 59 games over the last 24 months. That’s both majors and minors. Rodriguez also had the hip surgery last year, remember. So he’s got close to two years of rust and a breaking/broken down body. Can he come back to hit MLB pitching? I very much doubt it, but I suppose it’s not impossible. I am very anxious to see how this all plays out.

T.J. asks: Could you see the Yankees moving Yangervis Solarte to second base, full time, and going with Scott Sizemore at third? Brian Roberts isn’t too bad, but he seems more like a bench player.

Solarte has played mostly third base for the Yankees, but he’s actually played second base primarily throughout his minor league career. Last season he played 88 games at second and 46 at other positions. The year before it was 91 games at second and 35 at other positions. Solarte is actually on pace to play nearly as many games at third base this season (131) as he did in his entire minor league career (135). He’s a second baseman playing the hot corner, basically.

If the Yankees are going to shuffle things around to find some more production, second and third bases are the spots to do it. Roberts has been alright the last few weeks but he’s still the obvious guy to replace. Stick Solarte at second full-time and platoon Sizemore (who was sent to Triple-A yesterday) and Kelly Johnson at third? That could actually be pretty productive. I don’t like Johnson being a guy who plays once or twice a week out of position at first base. Play him fairly regularly at third (or second) and he’ll hit some dingers and steal some bases. That plan works for me. The Yankees seem committed to Roberts because he gives veteran presents though.

Scott asks: Do you think that if CC Sabathia misses a significant chunk of the season (until August or so), and when he does pitch is as ineffective as he has been, that the front office would try to make a big free agent splash a la Jon Lester/Max Scherzer? Or would it disincentivize them even further from signing a big contract despite the needs on the field?

With Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka both on the books, I would be surprised if they went out and added another huge pitching contract. Scherzer’s going to wind up with $200M or so and Lester won’t be too far behind him, so we’re talking about potentially three $22M+ pear year pitching contracts, one of which looks like a total albatross at this point. Obviously both Scherzer and Lester would make the Yankees substantially better, but they are both already 30 (Scherzer will be next month) with lots of regular season and postseason innings on their arms. Remember, Sabathia was 28 when he signed with New York. I’m not sure another huge dollar starter is in the cards.

I’m One asks: I understand why some are calling for the Yankees to sign Kendrys Morales, yet I don’t agree. To much positional inflexibility, despite the added offense. If he does get signed and Carlos Beltran doesn’t need surgery, what would you expect to be the corresponding 25-man move?

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

It would have to be cutting ties with Alfonso Soriano at this point, wouldn’t it? He’s been terrible so far and I don’t think the leash should be any longer. His at-bats are flat out non-competitive. The problem with cutting Soriano is that the Yankees would be stuck playing Beltran in right field regularly, something they said they want to avoid. They don’t want to risk re-aggravating the bone spur by having him throw. I can’t imagine Morales will sign up for a job where he rotations between first base and DH and might only play two-thirds of the time, so this is all probably just a moot point.

Stephen asks: Here’s a crazy hypothetical. Game 7, World Series. Your starting pitcher must be either Randy Johnson or Greg Maddux, as they are today. Whoever you choose can have a month to prepare. Who do you go with?

When I first read this question, I thought Stephen was asking if I would rather have Johnson or Maddux start a Game 7. I would go with Johnson because he dominated. Maddux was awesome, obviously, but in one game where anything can happen, I want the guy who can miss bats and put the ball by hitters. We’ve seen what Johnson can do in big game situations firsthand unfortunately, and that’s the guy I’d want on my side.

Then I realize the question was asking which one I would rather have right now, as in today with both guys pushing 50. (Johnson is 50, Maddux is 48.) Johnson had back problems later in his career and relied more on the quality of his stuff, so I’d be concerned about what he has left in the tank. Can he finish his pitches and break off those nasty sliders? Maddux was all command. I feel like he could wake up in the dead of winter at 48 years old, repeat his mechanics, and paint the corners on both sides of the plate. At their peak, I’d take Johnson for a Game 7. In 2014, give me Maddux.

gehrig27 asks: Because of the injuries and bad performance there is a good possibility that no Yankee player will have at least 100 RBIs at the ends of the season. When was the last time it happened?

Mark Teixeira leads the team with 27 RBI at the moment, a rate of 0.69 RBI per healthy team game. That puts him on pace for 98 RBI over the full season when you adjust for the time he missed due to injury and all that. They had one 100+ RBI guy in both 2012 (Curtis Granderson, 106) and 2013 (Robinson Cano, 107), and before that they had at least two 100+ RBI guys from 2002-11. How times have changed, eh?

The last time the Yankees did not have a 100+ RBI guy in a non-strike season was way back in 1992. Don Mattingly led the team with 86 RBI that year. They didn’t have a 100+ RBI guy in 1990 or 1991 either. Unless Teixeira stays healthy, it doesn’t look like the Yankees will have someone hit the century mark this season. Solarte is second on the team with 26 RBI and he is on pace for only 71 RBI over the full season. With Teixeira’s wrist figuring to be on ongoing problem, it looks like the team won’t have a 100+ RBI for the first time in more than two decades.

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Only six questions for you this week, but they’re good ones. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything at anytime.

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

Paul asks: Dellin Betances: All-Star?

At this point in time, I say yes on merit and no on actually getting elected to the game. Among the 108 relievers who had thrown at least 20 innings going into yesterday’s game, Betances ranked first in strikeouts (51), second in strikeout rate (44.9%), and second in FIP (1.02). Wade Davis ranked second (40), first (44.9%), and first (0.94), respectively. Betances has legitimately been one of the five or ten best relievers in baseball this season and that makes him All-Star Game worthy in my opinion.

Non-closing relievers get elected to the All-Star Game every year — Brett Cecil and Jesse Crain went just last year, for example — but it’s usually only one or two (not including the final vote). Remember, Red Sox manager John Farrell is filling out the AL roster this year after the players have their vote, and the manager tends to take his own guys. Joe Torre did it all the time in the late-90s and early-2000s. Would the Red Sox manager take a Yankees middle reliever over one of his own guys like Junichi Tazawa or Koji Uehara? Probably not. Betances has been awesome and I think he belongs to be in the All-Star Game, but belonging there and getting there are two different things.

Matt asks: Can you see the Yankees letting David Robertson walking at the end of the year and giving Betances the closer job?

Yes, I could, but the problem is that they’d still have to replace Robertson. Sure, Betances takes his role as the closer, but the Yankees would still be letting an elite reliever walk. Robertson is replaced as closer, but who replaces Betances as the middle innings fireman? Maybe someone like Danny Burawa or Mark Montgomery or Jose Ramirez could step up and do the job, but until they get a chance, we don’t know how much they can really help.

The Yankees have done a very good job of fielding a quality bullpen on the relatively cheap over the years, and letting Robertson walk as a free agent and saving $10-12M a year to spend elsewhere makes sense. At the same time, Robertson just turned 29 and he hasn’t had any arm problems in his career. He’s a strikeout machine who has proven he can handle high leverage spots in New York. It’s tough to let that guy walk, isn’t it? If he’s demanding Jonathan Papelbon money, then yeah, maybe let him walk. But if they can get Robertson to come back on a three-year deal worth that $10-12M per year (Rafael Soriano money, basically), I think they should do it. This isn’t like letting Joba Chamberlain or Luis Ayala walk.

Travis asks: What about Raciel Iglesias? What are the scouting reports on him?

Iglesias, 24, defected from Cuba over the winter and is throwing a showcase for scouts in Haiti today, according to Joel Sherman. Sherman says teams view the right-hander as a bullpen arm who could help as soon as the second half of this year (he was a reliever in Cuba). Here’s some more from Ben Badler:

Major league scouts (and Baseball America) have been able to see Iglesias pitch in person outside of Cuba twice this year. At the World Baseball Classic in March, Iglesias pitched at 88-92 mph. When Cuba visited the U.S. in July for a five-game friendship series against the U.S. College national team, Iglesias looked more impressive, throwing 92-95 mph while varying the speed and shape of his sweepy 76-81 mph breaking ball to get swings and misses.

“I think he’s a guy that, as he gets bigger and stronger, could be in the mid-to-upper 90s,” said Team USA coach Jim Schlossnagle, who is also the coach at Texas Christian. “He’s lean, has a ridiculously loose arm and pounded the strike zone. I was glad they didn’t pitch him more. He was the guy where you’re like, ‘Let’s find a way to get a lead before they get to this guy.’”

Badler says Iglesias stands 5-foot-11 and 165 lbs., so he’s a skinny little guy. You can see that in the video above. I’ve also seen his name spelled Raciel, Raicel, and Rasiel, so we don’t even know how to properly spell the guy’s name at this point. There isn’t much information about him available. Sherman is well connected though, and if he hears that teams think Iglesias could help in the bullpen later this year, then it’s probably true. I assume the Yankees will do their due diligence — they can use another reliever, but that’s true for every team — but I haven’t heard anything specific about their level of interest. Same goes for every other team for that matter.

Wandy. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Wandy. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

A different Mike asks: Should the Yanks see if they can nab Wandy Rodriguez? He was recently designated. I don’t know if I’d give him a major league deal but a minor one for certain.

Yeah, there’s no way I’d give Wandy a big league contract at this point, but there’s no harm in a minor league deal. The Pirates ate about $5.5M in salary by cutting him — yet they won’t call up Gregory Polanco because they’re worried about a similar amount of money three years into the future, but I digress — so no one will claim him off waivers and take on that money. Rodriguez will eventually be released and free to sign with anyone.

Before getting designated for assignment, the 35-year-old southpaw had a 6.75 ERA (7.32 FIP) in 26.2 innings. He also gave up ten homers (!) and has been dealing with on and off elbow problems the last two years. Wandy’s numbers against lefties haven’t been all that good either, so it’s not even like there is reason to think he could help as a situational reliever. There’s no harm in giving him a minor league deal just to see if something clicks, but I don’t see how an AL East team could stick this guy on their active roster right now.

Nik asks: Question about Extended Spring Training games. Just who exactly is left down in Tampa to play these games? We hear about rehabbing players going to ExST and playing and how that doesn’t count toward their return countdown. Are these like practice squad players?

Extended Spring Training is basically Spring Training for the two short season leagues. It’s similar to regular old Spring Training in that there are daily drills and games against other ExST teams. They travel to the other complexes in Florida and everything. The games are not official though, they’re basically scrimmages. From what I understand they are open to the public too, you can just walk in and watch.

The players in ExST are the guys under contract with the team who have not been assigned to one of the full season minor league affiliates. SS Thairo Estrada is in ExST right now. So are RHP Ty Hensley and OF Leonardo Molina, for example. ExST ends when the short season leagues start in late-June (so when Short Season Staten Island and the Gulf Coast League Yanks begin play) and the players who do not get assigned to a minor league affiliate at that time are released or hidden on the phantom disabled list somewhere. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a continuation of Spring Training, only with minor leaguers.

(Getty)

(Getty)

Ryan asks: After seeing what Babe Ruth’s paycheck was it has me curious. If Ruth were say a 28 year old free agent today, what type of deal do you think he would sign? Money and years.

Here is Ruth’s paycheck, if you miss it floating around the internet the other day (I did). He was paid $7,685.23 twice a month (MLB players are paid on the 15th and 30th during the season, so today’s payday), which works out to $104,709.93 in 2014 dollars according to the CPI Inflation Calculator. That puts his annual salary at $1.25M or so in 2014 dollars, which is nothing by MLB standards. Baseball salaries have increased at a rate greater than general inflation.

Ruth was 32 years old in 1927 (the date on the paycheck) and was still a marvelous hitter, hitting his career-high and then-record 60 homers that season. Here is what Ruth did through his age 28 season:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1914 19 BOS AL 5 10 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 4 .200 .200 .300 .500 49
1915 20 BOS AL 42 103 16 29 10 1 4 20 9 23 .315 .376 .576 .952 188
1916 21 BOS AL 67 152 18 37 5 3 3 16 10 23 .272 .322 .419 .741 121
1917 22 BOS AL 52 142 14 40 6 3 2 14 12 18 .325 .385 .472 .857 162
1918 23 BOS AL 95 382 50 95 26 11 11 61 58 58 .300 .411 .555 .966 192
1919 24 BOS AL 130 543 103 139 34 12 29 113 101 58 .322 .456 .657 1.114 217
1920 25 NYY AL 142 616 158 172 36 9 54 135 150 80 .376 .532 .847 1.379 255
1921 26 NYY AL 152 693 177 204 44 16 59 168 145 81 .378 .512 .846 1.359 238
1922 27 NYY AL 110 496 94 128 24 8 35 96 84 80 .315 .434 .672 1.106 182
1923 28 NYY AL 152 697 151 205 45 13 41 130 170 93 .393 .545 .764 1.309 239
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/29/2014.

Bold means he led the AL, bold and italicized means he led all of MLB. Take a second to fully grasp how dominant a hitter Ruth was. Defense is irrelevant at that point. He could have sat in a lawn chair in the outfield and been the best player in the game, which he clearly was.

Anyway, Ruth had a 231 OPS+ in his first four years in pinstripes. Miguel Cabrera had a 177 OPS+ in the four years before signing his record extension this spring. (We can’t really compare raw homer totals given the difference in eras, but Ruth hitting 40+ in the 1920s is far superior to Miggy hitting 40+ these days. Ruth out-homered entire teams back in the day.) Cabrera’s deal was ten years and $292M total, the extension plus the two years left on his current contract. He wasn’t a free agent on the open market, so there no bidding war to drive up the price.

Having just completed his age 28 season, I think Ruth would wind up getting something like 12 years and $396M ($33M per year) these days. That’s nothing more than my guess, we’re in uncharted territory here. Ruth was far and away the best player in baseball and I think that would result in far and away the richest contract in sports history. Remember how Alex Rodriguez‘s contract with the Rangers shattered records (the second largest sports contract at the time was Kevin Garnett’s $126M deal)? I think that would happen again today if 28-year-old Ruth hit free agency in today’s market. It would be unlike anything we’ve seen before.

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(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Jerry asks: Just read a quote where Joe Girardi said there is no guarantee CC Sabathia ever comes back, obviously this is an extreme response, but it got me wondering, how does a retirement due to medical issues work as far as the contract is concerned? Does he not retire and continue to collect his check? Negotiate a medical buyout then retire? Are these contracts insured?

Here’s the full quote for those who missed it (via Brendan Kuty): “I think there’s always that possibility a player may not make it back, but I feel pretty good about he’s had done so far and the steps that were taken, and you just kind of keep your fingers crossed.”

Anyway, players forfeit the remainder of their contracts if they retire. If Sabathia’s knee is bad enough that he can never pitch again, he’ll simply sit on the 60-day DL for the next few years and the Yankee will collect whatever insurance they’re entitled to based on their policy. I suppose a buyout is possible, but I can’t remember there ever being one in MLB.

I remember reading that many times teams won’t insure these super-large contracts because the premiums are often higher than the contract itself. The Yankees do have insurance on Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez though — that’s based on what we heard after Teixeira’s wrist and A-Rod‘s hip problems — so I’m guessing they have one on Sabathia too. The only player I can recall who retired and walked away from his contract due to injury is Gil Meche, who forfeited roughly $12M a few years ago. I would be stunned if Sabathia did that. It would be stupid. The Yankees knew the risks when they agreed to pay him all that money. He shouldn’t let them off the hook out of the kindness of his heart.

Mark asks: Is it fair to say that Peter O’Brien is now the team’s second or third best prospect behind Gary Sanchez? Does O’Brien’s meteoric rise on this list along with his versatility make him more valuable to the Yanks over the long-term and make it more likely they’ll trade Sanchez for some pitching help this summer?

I’m going to post my pre-draft top 30 prospects next Friday and right now I’m on the fence about whether O’Brien is even a top ten prospect in the organization. He’s a one-tool guy — granted, that one tool is power, and if you’re going to be a one-tool guy, power is the one to have — without a clearly defined position and some concerns about holes in his swing. If he does make the top ten, he’ll be in the back half for sure. O’Brien’s having a monster season, no doubt about it, but 40 strikeouts and three unintentional walks (!) is a red flag. How usable will that power be at the next level?

I don’t think O’Brien’s big year makes it any more or less likely the Yankees will trade Sanchez. Or John Ryan Murphy for that matter. If anything, it might make it more likely they trade O’Brien. They obviously don’t think he can catch — they wouldn’t have tried him at third base last year and in right field this year if they thought he could hack it behind the plate — but some other team might be willing to give him a shot as a catcher. The Yankees will probably trade a catcher for a pitcher this summer because they have a ton of catching depth, not because someone broke out and made someone else expendable.

(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)

(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)

J.R. asks: I know its early but can we get a scouting report on Kenta Maeda? Pitches, etc?

Maeda is the best pitcher in Japan now that Masahiro Tanaka is wearing pinstripes. There was some speculation he would be posted last offseason, but the Hiroshima Carp decided to keep him around for another year. Maeda is expected to be posted this coming offseason but he is not on par with Tanaka or Yu Darvish. It’ll be a little while before someone of that caliber comes along. Here’s a snippet of a Baseball America (subs. req’d) scouting report from last year:

Maeda doesn’t have a plus pitch, but he’s shown plus command at his best with the ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes, pitch to both sides of the plate and change hitters’ eye levels … Maeda’s size (6 feet, 161 pounds) doesn’t give him great fastball plane, but his fastball plays up because it has good sink and run and he commands it well. He throws a solid-average slider with short break, a low-70s curveball that he’ll use early in the count and an occasional changeup. Some scouts aren’t sold on Maeda’s stuff playing in the big leagues, but those who like him think he has No. 4 starter potential.

Righties Shohei Otani and Shintaro Fujinami are the early favorites to be the next elite pitching talents to come out of Japan, but they are only 19 and 20 years old, respectively. Long way to go before they’re MLB ready and made available via the posting process.

Mike asks: I get it that Pat Venditte doesn’t have great stuff, and his main point of interest is that he switch-pitches, but after seven years in the minors with a 2.31 ERA and 376/86 K/BB ratio, isn’t it at least worth just seeing if he can do it in AAA? Why not just release him if they believe in him that little?

This question was sent in right before Venditte was promoted to Triple-A Scranton. Teams still need players to fill out their minor league rosters and soak up the playing time left over by the actual prospects, which is why guys like Venditte continue to get jobs even though the team may not believe they’re a future big leaguer. No club has a prospect for every roster spot on every minor league affiliate. Organizational players are necessary and somewhat important. That said, Venditte has been nails against left-handers this year (.071/.188/.071 with a 43.8% strikeout rate). With Cesar Cabral and Fred Lewis both pitching poorly and getting demoted to Double-A Trenton recently, Venditte just might be next in line for a call-up if another lefty reliever is needed. Unlikely? Yeah, probably. It’s not completely far-fetched though.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

Andrew asks: With Dellin Betances being amazing in his new bullpen role, why not approach him with an extension right now? He’s under team control for 6 years I believe, why not offer him 6 years, $10 million? It would give him a big payday now, but also give the Yanks cost certainty as he advances into a more high leverage role.

The Yankees do still have six years of control left over Betances and yes, he has been totally awesome this year. He’s also been completely unpredictable throughout his career and I think his flame out potential is lot higher than many either realize or want to admit. There’s not much of a difference between him and, say, Daniel Bard. Electric when on but a perpetual risk of falling apart at any moment.

David Robertson will earn approximately $11.2M during his six years of team control, so that six-year, $10M deal is in the ballpark. Relievers don’t make much during their years of team control unless they rack up saves, and right now Betances isn’t closing. Maybe he’ll close next year — don’t you just love him as a dominant fireman for the middle innings though? — which would change things. Six years and $10M is a relatively small amount, yet it comes with quite a bit of risk and wouldn’t be much of a bargain unless he takes over as closer at some point relatively soon. I’m not a fan of rushing into extensions with non-closing relievers. Their earning power is so relatively small that it’s not worth the risk, especially when they have fewer than one year in the show. Maybe after 2015?

Russell asks: After watching Gerrit Cole, I am wondering why he turned down the Yankees. Growing up a Yankees fan, being selected by them and turning them down? I do not understand why.

Cole simply decided to go to college, that’s all. Teams knew he would be a tough sign coming into the draft, but the Yankees rolled the dice anyway because they never get a chance to draft that kind of talent. They were prepared to offer him a far-above-slot $4M bonus, but Cole’s family is wealthy and money wasn’t a big factor, so he went to UCLA. That’s life. No player should base a decision like this on their fandom growing up.

Sandy asks: What minor league players must the Yankees protect or could lose to the Rule 5 Draft in December?

General rule of thumb is high school players drafted in 2010 and college players drafted in 2011 (or earlier) will be eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft. International prospects are always tough to pin down because the exact dates they signed are often unknown. Based on that, the notables who will be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season are OF Tyler Austin, RHP Danny Burawa, SS Cito Culver, OF Ben Gamel, 2B Angelo Gumbs, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Branden Pinder, and OF Mason Williams.

Of those eight, I think only Austin, Montgomery, and Williams are locks to be added to the 40-man roster and protected from the Rule 5 Draft. Williams hasn’t hit a lick in two years, but the Yankees have a tendency to protect their one-time top prospects regardless of whether they would actually stick in MLB for a full season (coughJoseCamposcough). There’s a good chance Burawa and/or Montgomery will be called up at some point this season, so they’ll likely already be on the 40-man. Culver and Gumbs shouldn’t be protected and both Gamel and Pinder are on the fence at best. That’s what I think right now, but there are still six months before these decisions have to be made.

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Got eight questions for you this week, some with long-ish answers and some with short answers. If you want to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

MFIKY. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

JoeyA asks: How much would TANAK get on the open market RIGHT NOW. My guess: more than 7/155.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure Masahiro Tanaka would fetch more than seven years and $155M right now. He’s legitimately pitching like an ace (2.17 ERA and 2.81 FIP) because he doesn’t walk anyone (1.09 BB/9 and 3.1 BB%) and he misses a ton of bats (10.24 K/9 and 29.5 K%). Tanaka’s been durable throughout his career, he’s adjusted to the different ball and five-day schedule just fine, and he’s only 25 years old. Plus he’s a stone cold killer on the mound. Absolutely nothing rattles him. He would be a seriously hot commodity on the open market now that he’s shown he can handle MLB.

Tanaka’s contract (not counting the release fee) is already the fourth largest pitching contract in baseball history. I don’t think he’d get Clayton Kershaw money (seven years, $215M) if he was a free agent right now, but Felix Hernandez (seven years, $175M) and Justin Verlander (seven years, $180M) money seems very doable. That said, none of those three were free agents, they all signed extensions. Tanaka would be able to create a bidding war, so maybe $200M isn’t out of the question. I think Max Scherzer’s headed for $200M this winter and he turns 30 in July. Wouldn’t you rather have Tanaka’s age 25-31 seasons over Scherzer’s age 30-36 seasons?

Stephen asks: CC Sabathia‘s xFIP is 3.14, good for 21st in the bigs. Since the purpose of xFIP is to normalize home run rates, do you see a large regression coming for the big guy? How is it possible for a guy with his peripherals to be this bad? Tanaka is actually leading the xFIP leaderboard, due to his bloated HR rate. Is it possible that he’s going to get even better as the season progresses?

I am absolutely not a fan of xFIP because it does normalize homer rates to the league average. Why are we doing that, exactly? We know pitchers give up homers at different rates so why would we expect them to regress back to the rest of the league? You’re better off comparing a pitcher’s homer rate to his recent performance.

For example, Sabathia has a 23.3% HR/FB rate this year, which is way higher than last season (13.0%) and the last three seasons (11.3% from 2011-13). At the same time, he’s given up some serious bombs this year — Hit Tracker says eight of Sabathia’s ten homers allowed were “no doubters” or had “plenty,” basically meaning they were crushed. One was “just enough” and barely got over the wall. The other was Wil Myers’ inside the park homer — and that indicates hitters are squaring him up well. The 23.3% HR/FB rate is insane (would be the highest in MLB history by a mile) and I would expect it come down some, but given the swings hitters are taking against him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a true talent 15-16% HR/FB guy now, especially in Yankee Stadium. The AL average is 9.4% this year and it feels like it would take a miracle for Sabathia to get his homer rate down that far at this point of his career. Long story short: I’m not an xFIP fan at all.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

Spencer asks: I know it’s a tad premature, but how does the contract Yangervis Solarte has work? Does he become a free agent this year? Also, suppose he has the same slash line as he has now at the end of the season what would you sign him for?

This is the first time Solarte has been in the big leagues, so the Yankees still have his full six years of team control. Assuming he never goes back to the minors, he’ll earn something close to the league minimum from 2014-16, then go through arbitration from 2017-19. Solarte can not qualify for free agency until after the 2019 season at the earliest, when he will be 32 years old.

As for signing him long-term … I think it might be too early for that. Solarte’s been awesome, don’t get me wrong, but given his out of nowhere emergence from mediocre minor league journeyman to impact big leaguer, I think you need to see if he does it again next season before committing real money to him. If he’d agree to something like five years and $10M after the season (say $550k, $750k, $1.5M, $2.9M, $4.3M from 2015-19), then hell yeah, do it. He might jump at the guaranteed payday after toiling in the minors so long. At worst he’d be an expensive bench player four years down the line. The Yankees have a ton of money and can roll the dice by waiting a year to see if this is the real Solarte though.

Chris asks: Any thoughts at a run at Mike Moustakas? He’s off to an awful start and they are talking of sending him back to the minors.

I think the Yankees should call and ask, sure. Moustakas is off to a dreadful start (53 wRC+ going into last night’s game) and he simply can’t hit lefties, either this year (.198 wOBA) or throughout his relatively short big league career (.267 wOBA), so he’s basically a platoon player. He does have left-handed pop and he’s made himself into a strong defender at the hot corner, plus he is only 25 and it wasn’t that long ago that he was considered one of the ten best prospects in baseball. Maybe hitting coach Kevin Long can help him take him to the next level like he did Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson (and Solarte?).

The Royals are not the cellar-dwellers they once were, or at least they aren’t acting like that anymore. They’re trying to win right now, this year, before James Shields leaves as a free agent. I don’t think they’ll trade their starting third baseman — they have some internal candidates to replace him, so trading Moustakas is not necessarily a crazy idea — for a handful of prospects. They’ll want help for the big league team in return. Kansas City could probably use another outfielder and another starting pitcher. There’s no way I’d give up Brett Gardner for Moose Tacos and I doubt Zoilo Almonte or Ichiro Suzuki would cut it. As for the pitching, hah. The Yankees have zero to spare. He’s worth a phone call but I’m not sure there’s a good trade fit at this moment.

Mike P. asks: Under the new replay system, let’s say the HQ in New York tells the umpires a batter is safe at first, but the umpires watch the scoreboard replay and think he’s out. Do they have to follow the call from NYC or can they make their own judgment?

It’s all done in the Midtown office, the reviews and the decision. They just relay the call through the headsets. I don’t believe the on-field umpires have the authority to make the call either once it goes to review, that would defeat the purpose.

(Nick Laham/Getty)

(Nick Laham/Getty)

Daniel asks: You mentioned being sort of iffy on the decision to give Tino Martinez a plaque. Are there any of the other plaques or retired numbers that you disagree with or that at least are strange to you?

Here’s the list of monuments, plaques, and retired numbers. None of them stand out to me as odd but most of those guys played or managed or whatever long before my time. I think there’s a “feel” element to this stuff. You can’t just set some arbitrary WAR threshold and say guys over this number get a plaque, guys over this number get their number retired, so on and so forth. The guy has to feel like he belongs in Monument Park. You know I mean. Tino was awesome for the Yankees for six years, but was he an all-time great Yankee? Not a chance. I think others like Willie Randolph, Bobby Murcer, and Joe Gordon (Hall of Famer!) are more deserving of plaques. That’s just my opinion though. Everyone is welcome to feel differently.

Dan asks: Do you think Peter O’Brien has reached his top level this season? He got a quick promotion. If he keeps hitting like he did in High-A could he make it to AAA this year?  

O’Brien was promoted quickly because he spent the second half of last season in High-A as well, it wasn’t just a few weeks early this year. That said, yes I definitely think another promotion may come later this season. Not right away, O’Brien needs some time to catch his breath and get comfortable in Double-A, but in August or so? Sure, bump him up if he’s still raking. Guys like him — drafted as a college senior, ton of power, lots of strikeouts, never walks, still trying to find a position — are the ones teams should promote aggressively because you’re not going to know what you have until he gets to the highest levels of the minors. He’s not someone like, say, Luis Torrens, who is trying to learn to catch high-end velocity and get through the grind of a full season. Give O’Brien like two months in Double-A then see where he’s at.

Kevin asks: Why not try Gary Sanchez at third at least part-time? They seem pretty set with Brian McCann and John Ryan Murphy behind the plate. 

Sanchez still needs to work on his catching and I mean just about everything. Footwork, receiving, throwing, the whole nine. I think they should let him focus on improving behind the plate because that is where he’s most valuable. Who’s to say McCann won’t be a full-time DH and Murphy won’t be a bust by time Sanchez is ready? We’re still a long way away from worrying how he fits onto the roster and I think the odds of him being traded are much higher than the odds of him wearing pinstripes for more than a few weeks. When he gets to Triple-A and it looks like he might be ready to help the MLB team, that’s when I’d worry about his position. For now, leave him behind the plate and let him learn.

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